Sunday, April 06, 2014

Various Reads

18222709 Davies, Jacqueline. The Magic Trap.
April 1st 2014 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by HMH Middle Grade Mania

Jessie and Evan are a little apprehensive when their mother is preparing to go on a business trip and planning on leaving them in the care of her friend, while their grandmother goes to visit friends from her old neighborhood, but this almost falls through when the friend is hurt in an accident. Never fear: their father has just blown in to town between assignments and can stay with them. Jessie thinks this is great, since she misses her dad, but Evan knows how unreliable his father can be. Evan is reading an old book on magic and is determined to do a disappearing trick with a rabbit, but needs help building the box to make the trick successful. Things go fairly well with the trick planning, but just as a storm is planning on blowing in to town, their father has to leave, but they manage to have a successful magic show without him. Since their mother is supposed to come home, he doesn't worry, but the storm delays her and Jessie and Evan have to ride out a Category 1 hurricane alone. A tree falls through the house, and when their mother comes home, she is rightfully angry with the father but impressed that the children did so well on their own.
Strengths: This is the final book in the Lemonade War series, which has included a couple of mysteries, the grandmother's dementia, and a variety of topics. Jessie and Evan seem to get along well, the family dynamics are interesting, and the books are short and easy to follow.
Weaknesses: This poor family has more than its share of problems, and this is a very sad book. Jessie is a really annoying nine year old, and I'm not sure that I am okay with the message that some people just don't make good parents, and they just have to understand that their father is one of these people. I suppose this gives them a little better relationship with him, but it's still a little disturbing.

15995776Shusterman, Michelle. Friends, Fugues, and Fortune Cookies. (I Heart Band #2)
January 9th 2014 by Grosset, Penquin USA
E Book from the Ohio E Book Project

Holly is looking forward to the winter dance, since she wants to ask Aaron, her crush. She's so sure that he's going to ask her that she turns down good friend Owen's invitation, only to find out that Aaron is asking her best friend (and former enemy) Natasha. There's also a band fund raiser going on; the different sections are having bake sales and competing to see who raises the most money. Natasha and Holly are also competing for regional band, so their friendship is in a tense place. Holly also feels awkward around Owen, with whom she usually plays video games, but when she shows up at the dance, forgetting that she lied to him about having a date, she knows she has to tell him the truth to make things right.
Strengths: Lots of good details about middle school; girl drama, romance angst, band details, and some fashion thrown in for good measure. Love the covers, and think this will be a popular series with girls who like the Crush books.
Weaknesses: Only in paperback or e book version; there's not even a Follettbound version yet. Drat. I found the fund raising and regional band competitions different from what we have in Ohio, but things could be different in other states.

15995772  20821066  18667789

1072146Martin, Ann M. Here Today. 
Published October 1st 2004 by Scholastic Press 

In 1963, Ellie has a difficult life. Her mother, Doris, is obsessed with finding fame one way or the other. She takes acting lessons, goes everywhere in overly tight, garish clothes, and doesn't take care of Elli or her brother and sister very well. Ellie has a good friend, Holly, who also lives in her run down neighborhood, but the two are both mistreated at school and made fun of by the other girls. When Doris does not get a job as a Circus Girl (spokeswoman for a restaurant) and the parade in which she is supposed to ride on a float is canceled because of JFK's assassination, she decides that life is short and moves to New York City to find work as an actress. Ellie is left to try to help her father take care of all of them, and also has to deal with people who keep damaging the property where two elderly ladies "who are not related" live together. Ellie misses her mother and runs away to New York to visit her, only to find out that she is not her mother's top priority.
Strengths: I've been looking for books set in the 1950s and 60s that deal with every day life. This has great details about fashion, food, social mores of the time AND cultural happenings such as JFK's assassination and the Ed Sullivan show. Definitely glad to have this one for use when students are looking for background information about the era when they read The Outsiders.
Weaknesses: Rather sad, and I found it hard to believe that Ellie's mother would really leave home, but she definitely did. The misfit quality of the neighborhood is emphasized a bit too much. Would people at that time really have cared if two women who were unrelated were living together?

1 comment:

  1. I was interested in the Lemonade War book. I read the first two (or three??) and noticed that they kept coming but wasn't sure about how the series was progressing. I appreciate your thoughts on the sad subjects, because in general these seem like good reads for early middle grade readers.